Players power up with spin kick

Even the great Messi himself could pick up a new addition to his routine from an international soccer tournament for wheelchair-bound players under way at the University of Limerick.

It’s called the Spin Kick.

Some of the very skilled players taking part in the first European Powerchair Football Nations Cup use the Spin Kick to perfection. Danish international captain, Sonny Fernandez, does an exquisite spin kick.

Sonny, a 24-year old member of the Bad Boys Club in Copenhagen, said: “With the spin kick you swivel your power wheel chair 360 degrees to hit the ball hard and fast. When you get it right, it’s magic. The French will be the team to beat, I think as they are very strong.”

Six teams are taking part in the tournament, the first Euro powerchair championships.

The disabled soccer teams use specially built Storm Chairs, which cost over €4,000.

Six teams: Ireland, England, Denmark, Belgium, France and Switzerland, are taking part in the tournament, with the final on Sunday afternoon.

Tournament organiser, Oisin Jordan, the Football for All manager with the FAI, said the tournament is organised in conjunction with the Association of Irish Powerchair Football.

He said: “This is the first Euro championships and it will be held every four years. There have been two Powerchair World Cups held in Japan and France.

“There are now over 80 powerchair players in Ireland in 10 clubs. We reckon the sport can grow considerably as we estimate there are over 500 people in wheelchairs who could take up the game. We have players ranging in age from six to their 50s. The clubs are looked after by Muscular Dystrophy Ireland.”

When the sport was introduced in this country in 2005, there were no powerchairs available.

Oisin said: “The players had to improvise. They used plastic boxes cut in half which were attached to the front of wheelchairs with cable ties.

“The purpose-built Storm Chairs are made by an international company, Invacare, in Dublin. A new US-made powerchair called Strike Force has now come in the market and it costs €10,000. The powerchairs are designed to travel at 10km per hour and play is very fast.”

Mixed male and female teams of four play 25 minutes a-side on basketball-size courts and each national team has a squad of eight.

Irish team manager, Nick Harrison, brought his senior squad for a final training spin yesterday.

The youngest player in the squad, 14-year-old Thomas Donogher, from Birr, Co Offaly, was looking forward to winning his first cap.

Thomas said: “The facilities here are great and it should be a fantastic tournament.”

The tournament was officially opened last night by Nicholas Dubes, president of the European Powerchair Football Association. Also present were FAI president John Delaney and Senan McGonigle, president of the Association of Irish Powerchair Football.


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